Saturday, January 01, 2005

Our Lady of Weight Loss

Today was the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Today is also a day that millions of Americans start a diet. Connection? There is one, sort of. Check out Our Lady of Weight Loss, which I found linked to on a craft site (Crafty Chica's, I believe.) Here's the story: Our Lady of Weight Loss is run by someone who lost fifty or more pounds after she decided, in response to hearing a "voice", that she should make weight loss an artistic experience . While making her first piece of weight-loss art, she found herself thinking about how she helped her mother make deliveries to the nuns at Our Lady of the Snow, how the nuns were always nice to her even though she was chubby, and how it would be nice if there were a saint for weight loss. And so she invented Our Lady of Weight Loss.

I love Mary and I am a Catholic, so I feel slightly ambivalent about Our Lady of Weight Loss. The weight loss art is fun, but the use of Marian imagery in at least some of the collages is questionable. More serious is the watering down of traditional religious devotions and the conflating of one religious tradition with others; one idea at work here is that all religions are about the same, so you don't have to take any of them seriously or even bother trying to understand the differences. But it doesn't really bother me. As I said, the art is fun, and the whole spirit of the thing seems to be one of lighthearted fun. I see no mockery or deliberate attempts at disrespect. Ignorance, yes, mockery,no; and ignorance is not a sin. And remember that the woman started the Our Lady of Weight Loss thing partly in response to a memory of nuns being kind to her and a perceived need of help.

Mary is a great converter, drawing people closer to the Church who would never listen to someone talking at them about the Trinity or a need for repentence. If the weight loss artist or some of the people seeing her images become, because of those collages, even no more than a little friendlier to the original images, then that could become a hole in their spiritual shells for truth to shine through. I think it is a good sign that there seems to be a small upswing in pop culture Marian imagery, even when it results in an Our Lady of Weight Loss instead of a more traditional-looking Virgin of Guadalupe handbag; many of the people using these images may be doing so more out of faddishness than any notion of piety, but any attraction to Mary, however small, can become the first step on the road home to the Church.

Worth pointing out again that this relatively positive secular use of Catholic imagery came about because a woman remembered some nuns being nice to her as a child. Think how many Catholics have left the Church solely because some nun or priest or fellow parishioner was rude or mean to that person. Another person's misbehavior is no excuse for leaving the Church, of course, but people do leave because of things like that, all the time. Like it or not, we're all seen as representatives of our faith, and if we treat other people callously, they may well believe it reflects on the Church, not on our bad execution of what the Church teaches. Just one more reason to think about how we treat others. (We'll see if I remember that next time someone cuts me off on the highway.)

For anyone interested in the real Mary and weight loss, I've heard of two things, a Yahoo group called Our Lady's Weigh and a program called Light Weigh. I've tried neither, but they sound as if they might be sensible. Light Weigh seems to be eating only when hungry and turning to God rather than food for non-physical hungers, and the Our Lady's Weigh seems to be your basic support group but with a Catholic focus.

For a secular weight loss idea, there's the "No S Diet". I've read this guy's page, and his concept is simple and sensible. A diet with three rules and one exception: No sweets, no snacks, no seconds--except (sometimes)on days starting with "s" (that's Saturdays, Sundays, and Special Occasions.) Pretty self-explanatory, but there's a page about it that is short and interesting.

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